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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"


Next to the amazing influence of grammar and rhetoric as
civilizing forces the most remarkable feature of Roman education
was its uniformity over a long period of time and under the most
diverse conditions. From the First Century of our era to the
Fourth or Fifth, from the extreme east of the Roman world to
the extreme west, it retained its identity without substantial
change. So slight were the differences made by the passing of
time, that the account of Roman education given by Quintilian
at the end of the First Century, summing up the experience of
more than a century before his time, holds good in all essential
respects for every part of the Empire three hundred or more
years later. The educational history of almost any of the great
men of whose early life we have intimate knowledge bears this
out. By way of illustration we may take the case of Augustine,
the most outstanding of the Latin fathers.

Augustine was born in 354 at the little town of Thagaste in
Nurnidia in the north of Africa. His father Patricias, a poor
freedman of the town, determined to give him a good educa-
tion and sent him to the school of the primus magister (the
ludi magister of the Roman school), where, as he informs us in
his Confessions, he learned to read, write and count. It is
significant, however, that the first thing he tells us about his
school life is not what he learned, but the floggings he received.
" What miseries and mockeries I experienced when obedience
to my teachers was set before me as proper to my boyhood,
that I might get on in this world and distinguish myself in the
science of speech, which should bring me honour among men
and deceitful riches. After that, I was put to school to get
learning, of which (worthless as I was) I knew not what use
there was ; and yet, if slow to learn, I was flogged." His first
lessons, he frankly admits, were distasteful to him, and he would
not have learned them if he had not been compelled by the
" torments " of his teachers. He had an equal dislike of Greek
literature, which he studied from his boyhood (in the school of
the primus magister ?), due to the fact that Greek was not his
mother tongue. (" I believe Virgil would be the same to Greek
children," he comments, " if they were compelled to learn him
as I was compelled to learn Homer-") A real love of study did
not come to him till he went to the grammar school in the neigh-
bouring town of Madaura, probably about the age of twelve,